Turkish rights activist Kavala’s prison term extended

Turkish rights activist Kavala’s prison term extended
Rights activists, international community and opposition parties have been urging the release of Kavala, who was arrested in the wake of an attempted coup in 2016. (AFP)
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Updated 15 December 2020

Turkish rights activist Kavala’s prison term extended

Turkish rights activist Kavala’s prison term extended
  • Freedom House has repeatedly urged the Turkish government to release Kavala

ANKARA: Turkey’s top court has again delayed the appeal of Turkish philanthropist and activist, Osman Kavala, for release from his detention of more than three years, despite the fact he has not not been convicted on any charge.

On Tuesday, the First Chamber of Turkish Constitutional Court deferred the application of Kavala to the Grand Chamber. It is the second time that the court has delayed his appeal. Experts note that the move is to gain time before the jailed rights defender’s first trial begins on Dec. 18 at a heavy penal court in Istanbul.

Rights activists, international community and opposition parties have been urging the release of Kavala, who was arrested in the wake of an attempted coup in 2016.

He was accused of organizing the anti-government Gezi protests in 2013 and attempting to change the constitutional order and to overthrow the government. Having been acquitted in the trial in February, Kavala was arrested again on the same day, this time on charges of “political or military espionage” — “surreal” charges that he denies.

Kavala applied to the Turkish top court arguing that “his right to personal liberty and security was violated as his arrest was unlawful.”

“Osman Kavala has been held in detention for over three years without any credible evidence of having committed a crime,” said Gina S. Lentine, senior program officer for Europe and Eurasia at Freedom House.

Freedom House has repeatedly urged the Turkish government to release Kavala.

“His case is emblematic and represents the stories of thousands of other activists, journalists, scholars, writers, artists, political figures, lawyers, and others who have been subjected to politically motivated proceedings in response to exercising their fundamental right to free expression,” Lentine told Arab News.

Last December, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that Kavala’s “politically motivated” prolonged pretrial detention was not lawful and was serving “other purposes.” Turkey is a contracting party to the European court and is obliged to follow its rulings.

In its ruling, the court underlined that “in the absence of other relevant and sufficient circumstances, the mere fact that the applicant had had contacts with a suspected person or with foreign nationals cannot be considered as sufficient evidence to satisfy an objective observer that he (Kavala) could have been involved in an attempt to overthrow the constitutional order.”

“The European Court of Human Rights is one of the few remaining tools that civil society in Turkey has to hold its government accountable for rights violations, which is why its rulings are so important,” Lentine said.

“It is deeply concerning that the Turkish government refuses to respond to the European Court’s judgments and begs the question as to how the Council of Europe can more forcefully hold Turkey accountable for flouting the conventions to which it is party, like the European Convention on Human Rights,” she said.

Bulent Arinc, a confidant of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, resigned last month from the government’s high advisory council after making controversial remarks about judicial reform in Turkey. He called for the release of Kavala from prison, saying charges against the philanthropist were baseless.

Turkey is expected to prioritize judicial reform in early 2021, but no improvement on Kavala’s situation is expected after recent remarks by Erdogan saying “he would never defend Kavala” as he considers him the sponsor behind the 2013 protests.

Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) lawmaker, Utku Cakirozer, said the Tuesday ruling produced another violation of rights for Kavala by extending the imprisonment period.

“They are sending the balls to each other to prolong his victimization despite all previous rulings from the European top court. It is unacceptable to keep someone behind bars for 1,148 days,” he told Arab News.

According to Cakirozer, the Kavala case has turned into a symbol of the state of the rule of law in Turkey.

“It is a case that undermines Turkey’s international claims in terms of democratization and rule of law,” he said.

Lentine from Freedom House agrees.

“It is concerning that the Turkish Constitutional Court, another one of the few remaining tools civil society can use to advocate for accountability and the rule of law domestically, has delayed its ruling to enforce the European Court’s judgments on Kavala,” she said. “This delay creates the impression that the Constitutional Court is simply waiting for the local court’s decision on Dec. 18 in order to make their decision.”


Beirut blast probe judge cleared to continue investigation

Beirut blast probe judge cleared to continue investigation
Updated 56 min 30 sec ago

Beirut blast probe judge cleared to continue investigation

Beirut blast probe judge cleared to continue investigation
  • A Beirut court rejected the last of the suits preventing Tarek Bitar from questioning top officials

BEIRUT: The probe into last year’s deadly Beirut port blast has been cleared to resume after being suspended for more than a month on legal claims against its lead investigator, judge Tarek Bitar, a judicial source said.
A Beirut court rejected the last of the suits preventing Bitar from questioning top officials on Tuesday.
“They have reversed the decision that had led to the suspension of the probe and he can now resume his work for sure,” Nizar Saghieh, head of the Legal Agenda, a research and advocacy organization, told Reuters.
The resumption could be temporary should further legal complaints be filed, he said.
The investigation into the Aug. 4, 2020, blast that killed more than 215 people, injured thousands and destroyed large swathes of the city has made little headway amid pushback from powerful factions, some of whom lead smear campaigns and filed multiple suits against Bitar.
The leader of the Iranian-backed, armed Shiite Muslim political movement Hezbollah has repeatedly said he wanted Bitar removed from the case and the row over him has spilled over into government, with Prime Minister Najib Mikati’s cabinet unable to meet since Oct. 12.
Many Lebanese are angry that more than one year on from the blast no senior official has been held accountable for the country’s worst peace-time disaster as it slips into political and economic meltdown.
Bitar has sought to question senior politicians, including former ministers and members of parliament, since July but nearly all have spurned him.
He is the second judge to take charge of the investigation after a legal complaint against the partiality of his predecessor Fady Sawan saw him removed in February.


Motorcycle explosion in southern Iraqi city kills at least 4

Motorcycle explosion in southern Iraqi city kills at least 4
Updated 07 December 2021

Motorcycle explosion in southern Iraqi city kills at least 4

Motorcycle explosion in southern Iraqi city kills at least 4

BASRA: At least four people were killed and 20 wounded in an explosion in Iraq's southern city of Basra, police and hospital sources told Reuters on Tuesday.
Police are still investigating the cause of the blast, which took place in the city centre, near a main hospital. The explosion set fire to at least one vehicle and damaged a minibus.
One police source said that an initial investigation showed that a motorcycle rigged with explosives could have been the cause of the blast. 


UAE government switches weekend to Saturday-Sunday starting 2022

UAE government switches weekend to Saturday-Sunday starting 2022
Updated 07 December 2021

UAE government switches weekend to Saturday-Sunday starting 2022

UAE government switches weekend to Saturday-Sunday starting 2022
  • The decision is aimed at boosting productivity and improving work-life balance, WAM reported

DUBAI: The UAE government will transition to a four-and-a-half-day working week, with Friday afternoon, Saturday and Sunday forming the new weekend starting Jan. 1, 2022 for all federal departments, state news agency WAM reported. 
The new system will be applied in all federal government entities with working hours from 7:30 a.m. till 3:30 p.m., it added.
Working hours on Fridays will start at 7:30 a.m. and end at 12 noon, with the possibility of flexible working hours or work from home options during those days. Friday sermons and prayers will be after 1:15 p.m. all year long in the UAE. 
The decision is aimed at boosting productivity and improving work-life balance, WAM reported.


UAE’s new 50-dirham banknote features Sheikh Zayed

UAE’s new 50-dirham banknote features Sheikh Zayed
Updated 07 December 2021

UAE’s new 50-dirham banknote features Sheikh Zayed

UAE’s new 50-dirham banknote features Sheikh Zayed
  • It is the first polymer banknote to be circulated in the country
  • The current 50- dirham note will continue to be used

DUBAI: UAE rulers witnessed the launch of a new 50-dirham banknote on Tuesday, in celebration of the country’s 50th National Day. 
The initiative comes in honor of the UAE’s founding father, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al-Nahyan, and the country’s first generation of rulers to commemorate their dedication and historical role in uniting the country.
It is the first polymer banknote to be circulated in the country.
“We see in this issuance the new phase that UAE will enter, and a renewed pledge to continue its growth path. The occasion also allowed us to express our appreciation and gratitude to our founding fathers by issuing a new AED50 banknote to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the establishment of the UAE,” said Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Central Bank of the UAE. 
The front of the new banknote features a portrait of the late Sheikh Zayed on the right, and the memorial picture of the founding fathers after signing the union document. 
Meanwhile, the back side includes a picture of the late Sheikh Zayed signing the union agreement as well as illustration of the Etihad Museum, which witnessed the establishment of the union and the raising of the UAE flag for the first time.
According to state news agency WAM, the new banknote will be available in Central Bank branches and ATMs ‘in the near future’.
The current 50- dirham note will continue to be used.
Polymer banknotes are said to be more durable and sustainable than traditional cotton paper banknotes, lasting two or more times longer in circulation. They can also be completely recycled, thus reducing their environmental footprint.


Syria says fires extinguished at Latakia’s port following Israeli ‘aggression’

 Israeli Air Force F-35 fighter jets fly over the Mediterranean Sea. (REUTERS file photo)
Israeli Air Force F-35 fighter jets fly over the Mediterranean Sea. (REUTERS file photo)
Updated 07 December 2021

Syria says fires extinguished at Latakia’s port following Israeli ‘aggression’

 Israeli Air Force F-35 fighter jets fly over the Mediterranean Sea. (REUTERS file photo)
  • Israel has mounted frequent attacks against what it has described as Iranian targets in Syria

CAIRO: Fires caused by an Israeli “aggression” at Syria’s Latakia port on Tuesday had been extinguished, leaving material damage, but the status of any casualties was unclear, Syria’s state media reported.

Five explosions rocked the port city after an Israeli “aggression” hit the port’s container yard, sending fire trucks racing to the site, Syrian state TV said.

Israel has mounted frequent attacks against what it has described as Iranian targets in Syria, where Tehran-backed forces including Lebanon’s Hezbollah have deployed over the last decade to support President Bashar Assad.

The Mediterranean port of Latakia is the country’s main port, through which food and other crucial supplies flow into war-torn Syria, and is close to Russia’s main air base of Hmeimim.